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Gov. O'Malley backs death penalty repeal

January 26, 2007|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

ANNAPOLIS - Gov. Martin O'Malley said Thursday that he'd sign a bill repealing Maryland's death penalty, a bill that sponsors plan to introduce by this morning's session.

"Yeah, I sure would," O'Malley said during a State House interview. "We're wasting a lot of money pursuing a policy that doesn't work to reduce crime or to save lives when we could be putting that money into crime reduction. I'm much more in favor of life without parole."

The lead sponsors - Sen. Lisa A. Gladden and Del. Samuel I. "Sandy" Rosenberg, both Baltimore City Democrats - on Thursday called the death penalty an unreliable, expensive, biased and immoral form of punishment.

"It doesn't work," said Gladden, a public defender whose recent repeal bills have failed. "The system's broken."

Gladden wondered if a new governor could help bring a different result. Former Gov. Robert Ehrlich, a Republican, supported the death penalty.

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Life without parole would replace the death penalty in the proposed bill.

A repeal bill must pass through the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, which includes Sen. Alex X. Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington, and the House Judiciary Committee, which includes Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington.

Shank predicted the bill will pass in his committee but face strong resistance on the House floor. He said he steadfastly supports the death penalty when it's appropriate, which is rare.

He mentioned the killing of two state correctional officers in 2006.

One was Jeffery Alan Wroten, a Roxbury Correctional Institution officer shot and killed, allegedly by an inmate he was guarding at Washington County Hospital.

The inmate, Brandon Morris, is scheduled to be tried on murder charges in Howard County on June 4. He faces the death penalty if convicted.

"I think in circumstances like that, circumstances where there are other aggravating circumstances, the death penalty still has a role in the state of Maryland," Shank said.

"I am certainly convinced that those who are currently awaiting execution on Maryland's death row as we speak ... I think there's no doubt, whatsoever, about their guilt," he said.

At their bill announcement, Gladden and Rosenberg were joined by two men whose convictions and death sentences in Maryland were overturned.

Kirk Bloodsworth was convicted in Baltimore County of raping and killing a 9-year-old girl and sentenced to death in 1985. He was released in 1993 after DNA evidence acquitted him.

Walter Lomax was convicted of murder and robbery in Baltimore City in 1967. His 39 years in Maryland prisons included a brief stay at Maryland Correctional Institution-Hagerstown. He was proven innocent and released last December.

"Just imagine how many innocent people may have been put to death," Lomax said.

Maryland is one of 38 states with a death penalty.

It has executed five people since 1976 and had eight people on death row as of Oct. 1, 2006, according to the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center.

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